Thursday, June 12, 2008

Day 163: Deuteronomy 15

Generosity

Read Deuteronomy 15

BACKGROUND:
Every seventh year was to be a sabbatical year, a holy year of rest. The Israelites were not to sow or reap crops, giving the land a year of rest. God promised to provide enough during the sixth year to meet the needs of both the sixth and seventh years. (In the same way, he had provided a double portion of manna on the sixth day every week in the wilderness.) This sabbatical year was also a time to release all debts, and this is what is being addressed in this chapter.

If Israel would keep this command (which they didn't), the whole nation would benefit.
  1. There would not be a problem with poverty in the nation of Israel.
  2. The Lord would bless the land making it very fruitful.
  3. Israel would lend to other nations and rule over them.
  4. Israel would not need to borrow from other nations.
  5. Other nations would not hold power over Israel.
God prescribes the proper treatment of those who are in need --
  1. Do not harden your heart toward a brother in need and refuse to help him.
  2. Generously lend him whatever he needs.
  3. Watch your heart! Don't refuse to help someone just because it's almost the sabbatical year and he won't have to repay you.
  4. If you give with a generous heart (not grieving your loss), God will bless you in your work.
Slaves were to be released in the seventh year as well. If a man owed more than he could repay, he could sell himself (or a family member) into slavery in order to pay off the debt. Here the Israelites are instructed to free such a man when the sabbatical year arrived and, in addition, not to send him away empty handed.

However, if such a man should choose to remain a slave, he would have his ear pierced as a symbol of that decision and remain in service the rest of his life.

This chapter concludes with a reminder that all firstborns belong to God. Another opportunity to give with a generous heart.

REFLECTION:
Generosity. God wants us to be generous to those in need, the impoverished, and Him. It's described here as "freely open your hand" and "furnish him liberally." One who is truly generous is not hostile toward the one in need and does not grieve for what he loses by giving it away. He is truly glad to give.

Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully. Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver. (1 Corinthians 9:6-7)

APPLICATION:
I want to have a generous heart. Here are some questions I ask myself. When I'm considering giving to a need, am I more concerned with what I'd lose than with what another would gain if I gave? Am I concerned enough about those in need to actually do something about it? Or do I just say I sympathize and leave it at that? And do I give generously to the Lord? At the end of chapter 14, God required a tithe (10%) of everything, and here He requires the first of everything. Do I give at least one-tenth of my earnings to God? Do I give to Him first, before keeping for myself? Do I give to Him cheerfully and willingly?

PRAYER:
Lord, give me a heart that is generous. Help me remember that what I have is really Yours and to do with it what You would have me to do. Soften my heart toward those in need. Teach me to open my hand and help those in need regardless of whether I'll ever be repaid for it. Let me give with a cheerful heart. Because Jesus gave all for me. Amen.
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